About “Beyond the Rows”

Beyond the Rows is a Monsanto Company blog focused on one of the world’s most important industries, agriculture. Monsanto employees write about Monsanto’s business, the agriculture industry, and the farmer.
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Changing the Conversation about STEM

Melissa Harper
VP of Global Talent Acquisition, Diversity & Inclusion

Did you know that about 70 percent of the people in agriculture’s work force hold jobs based in science, technology, engineering and math?  Data analysts, botanists, entomologists, agronomists, finance professionals and system engineers make up  just a few of the industry’s growing number of STEM-related jobs, particularly as digital agriculture and data science are becoming critical to feeding the world.

But there’s a problem. Not only do STEM-related roles make up the fastest-growing segment of the agribusiness work force, they are also some of the toughest positions to fill.

Why? A number of factors create pressure on the STEM work force. Competition from other industries, lack of student interest and the fast pace of change in the field all make it tough to keep up with the need for STEM candidates.

In agriculture, we have an even bigger challenge than other industries in attracting STEM talent because most people don’t know how important STEM is to everything we do.

The result: The number of graduates ready for STEM-related roles in agriculture will be well short of what we need. That’s why my team and I spend a lot of time talking with recruiters, students, university administrators and budding professionals about all the ways STEM influences agriculture – and all the positive impacts STEM can have on our mission to help feed our growing world.

I recently had the opportunity to talk with more than 150 HR professionals at LinkedIn’s Talent Connect, a national summit that brings together leaders across industries and regions to discuss the roles that will keep our businesses – and our growing world – strong for generations to come. Everyone had a lot of good ideas, from creating STEM-centric high schools to encouraging continuous on-the-job training.

But the most significant conclusion among the group was that we need to change the conversation about STEM, helping people realize how vital it is to just about any industry. At Monsanto, that means reminding young people as early as elementary school that a career in agriculture could mean working everywhere from the field to lab to the data center. We work with a number of organizations to further this cause, including the Girl Scouts of America, the FIRST Robotics competition and LaunchCode.

Classrooms around the world today are filled with our company’s future leaders. In 2050, when 2 billion more people are on this planet with the same amount of resources, they’ll be the ones using STEM to solve our world’s future challenges. That’s why changing the conversation around STEM is some of the most important work my team will ever do.

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